Feast of Corpus Christ
17 June 1976 at Ecône, Switzerland
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
My dear brethren,
If there is a feast which ought to be dear to our hearts, to the heart of the priest, to the heart of the seminarian, to the hearts of the Catholic Faithful, it is indeed the Feast of the Most Blessed Sacrament. What in our holy religion is more grand, more beautiful, more divine than the holy Sacrament of the Eucharist? What could Our Lord Jesus Christ have done to manifest His charity, His love for us more efficaciously, more obviously, than by leaving us under the appearances of bread and wine His Body, His Blood, His Soul and His Divinity? These things we have just sung in the Epistle, in the Gradual, in the Alleluia, in the Gospel. We have affirmed our faith in the Holy Eucharist—this faith which today is turned to doubt, this faith which is turned to doubt by the attitude, by the lack of respect that men have for the Most Holy Eucharist, for Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself present under the appearances of bread and wine. We then should affirm more than ever our faith in the Most Holy Eucharist.
That is why we are happy to gather here today, around Jesus in the Eucharist, and to manifest to Him our faith in His Divinity, and our adoration. It is for this that already for centuries and centuries in the Church this custom, this tradition has existed, of adoring Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist publicly—in the villages, in the cities, in the small cities as in the great ones—in the religious houses and in monasteries. Everywhere the Eucharist is honored; everywhere on this day of the Feast of the Most Blessed Sacrament, or of Corpus Christi, the Most Blessed Sacrament is honored in a public manner. The Council of Trent declared that we must honor Our Lord Jesus Christ publicly so that those who see, and who observe the faith of Catholics in the Most Holy Eucharist, might be attracted as well by this homage rendered to Our Lord Jesus Christ, and that finally they might believe in the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ present in this great Sacrament. And the Council of Trent added, Let those who refuse to admit the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ be struck, struck by a punishment of God—by the blinding of their hearts—if they refuse to honor Our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is what the Council of Trent said, to encourage this custom and this tradition, already ancient, of honoring Our Lord Jesus Christ publicly in the streets of our cities, in the countryside, as we are doing here today. That is why in a little while we shall make the procession, with all our faith, repeating to Our Lord Jesus Christ, Yes, we believe, O Jesus, that You are present in the holy Sacrament. We believe it today twice, three times, four times as strongly, for all those who no longer believe, for those who despise You in Your Sacrament, for all those who commit sacrileges. We shall perform this act of faith, asking Our Lord Jesus Christ to increase our faith.
It is this that is the foundation and the proof of our holy Catholic Religion, as the Scripture says so well. Could there be a religion in which God were nearer to man, than in the Catholic Religion? It is because it is the true religion; because God does not believe that He is humiliating Himself in coming to us, and in giving Himself to us in His Flesh and in His Blood. God does not humiliate Himself, He remains God. It is we who must manifest our respect, our adoration, for God. It is not because God acts in simplicity, in love, in charity towards us that we should despise Him. On the contrary, we should thank Him for this immense charity, this infinite love, this divine love of remaining among us!
Think, my dear brethren, try to recall the stages of your life in which you have felt this presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Ah, I am sure that the day of your First Communion-remember this moment, this blessed moment of your First Communion!—you thanked God for being able to receive His Body and His Blood. How well you were prepared by your parents, by the priests, who loved you, and who led you to the holy altar with an infinite respect for your hearts, for your souls, which were about to approach, which were about to become temples of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ! And since that day, how many times you have approached the holy altar to ask special graces which you needed—for yourselves, for your families, for the sick, perhaps for members of your family who were abandoning Our Lord Jesus Christ. Then you have made a more fervent communion, you asked Our Lord, Save them, these souls, do not abandon them. Do this by love for them; manifest Your mercy. And then no doubt when there was a celebration in your family, or a birthday, or a celebration which involved one of your children, you again felt sentiments of love and of gratitude towards Our Lord Jesus Christ—and not only in these special circumstances, but throughout your life.
Imagine a Christian life without the Eucharist! What would we be, without Our Lord Jesus Christ, without this extraordinary gift that God has given us? How we would be orphans, how we would feel alone, as if abandoned by God! But with the Eucharist, when we need to speak to Him, to see Him, to tell Him that we love Him, when we need special help, we can enter our churches, kneel down before Our Lord Jesus Christ, perhaps alone—alone before the Blessed Sacrament, and ask God: Come, come to my aid, succor me, I have a problem, a cross to bear; come to the aid of my family, come to the aid of my children. . . and then you left, you went out of the church comforted.
And you felt these same things, I am sure, after each Sunday Mass. How beautiful it is, the Sunday Mass, with all the faithful gathered around Our Lord Jesus Christ, participating in His Passion, participating also in His Body and in His Blood, returning to their homes with peace in their souls, joy in their hearts, strength in their souls, and ready to suffer if they must with Our Lord Jesus Christ, to bear their trials better. How often it is our job as priests to assist the dying. How often it is our job to carry Communion to the sick. What a joy for these souls who were suffering to receive their God from the hand of a priest who came to bring them Communion! What a comfort, what a source of courage for them!
Our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished in this Sacrament an extraordinary miracle of His love, and consequently we too ought to manifest our love for Him. The Sacrament of the Eucharist is truly the Sacrament of charity. Jesus could not have done more for us. It is the Sacrament of our Faith, first of all, the mysterium fidei — mysterium fidei — it is the mystery of our Faith—I would say the test, the test of our Faith. It is thus that true Catholics, that true Christians are recognized—if they have a profound, a real, an efficacious faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ present in the Holy Eucharist. It is thus that the Faith of Christians is recognized. Consequently this Sacrament is truly the mystery of our faith.
It is also the mystery of our hope. Our Lord Himself says so: "If you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you shall have eternal life in you. If you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you shall have this eternal life, and one day I shall raise you up." He will be our resurrection. The Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ present in our own poor bodies is a gauge of our resurrection. It is already eternal life that we possess within us. This eternal life will no longer leave us, even at the hour of our death. There will remain in our souls this germ of the resurrection of our bodies for eternity, because we shall have received Holy Communion, because we shall have been united to Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It is Our Lord Himself who says so, and this Gospel has been chosen by the Church specifically for the Mass of the Dead. Et ego resuscitabo eum in novissimo die. "And I shall raise you up on the last day."
Mystery of faith, mystery of our hope, mystery of charity. This is what I have just explained to you, but I should like to insist a little more on this efficacity of the charity produced by the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and which we so need. Even among ourselves, among us who believe—who have the Faith— who wish to remain Catholic and Roman until the last hour of our lives. We especially ought to live in charity. This Sacrament is the sign, the symbol of charity, by the charity of Our Lord.
But why did Our Lord choose these elements of bread and wine? You know, for it is a comparison which is often made, but which always needs to be recalled to mind. The bread is the fruit of grains which are milled together, crushed, and united to make bread. These grains must be united in such a manner that they form but one loaf of bread. The Eucharist, the Eucharistic bread, is precisely this image of the union of all the faithful, in this species of bread which our eyes behold, and which is the fruit of this union of grains of wheat. It is the same for the wine. One must also unite all the grapes of the vine to produce wine. It is in this union that wine is made, that wine is produced. And so Our Lord wished to choose these elements precisely to show us that we ought to be united, united also so as to transform ourselves in Our Lord Jesus Christ.
If we have not charity in us, if we are not united among ourselves, Our Lord Jesus Christ will not be able to act efficaciously in us, it is not possible. Our Lord Jesus Christ cannot enter a soul that has no charity. And how painful it is sometimes to think that some persons who nourish themselves daily on the Eucharist are not yet entirely dominated by this virtue of charity. They have to criticize, to cause divisions, to make rash judgments, to manifest their antipathy towards persons for whom they ought to manifest only friendship.
Well, let us make a resolution today on this Feast of the Blessed Sacrament—we who wish to keep this tradition, who wish to keep this faith in the Holy Eucharist—to keep as well the fruits of the Holy Eucharist. It does not suffice to keep the faith in it, it does not suffice to say that we are attached to the tradition of faith and hope in the Eucharist, but it is necessary too that we feel, that we have in ourselves all the fruits, these fruits of charity, which are so good, which manifest in such an obvious manner the presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in our souls.
And this I say especially to you, my dear future priests, who are going to be ordained in a few days, and to you, dear seminarians who are present: this charity you need. It must manifest itself in you. How could the faithful who will have recourse to your ministry really think that you are priests, that you are those whom God has chosen to consecrate the Holy Eucharist, so that He is present on the altar in His Body and in His Blood, the greatest manifestation of charity . . . how could they conceive that those who are the instruments of charity of God would not manifest this same charity towards the faithful and towards those Christians who come to receive it? And that by your patience, by your condescendence, by your love, by your humility, by your simplicity. You will listen to those who will come to see you, your heart will be full of mercy for them.
You will love to hear confessions. The ministry of confession is one of the most beautiful manifestations of the charity of the priest. An if you remain for hours in the confessional, is this not what the holy Cure of Ars and all holy priests have done, who spent their lives in the confessional? Extraordinary manifestation of their charity, of this charity which is found in the Holy Eucharist. These things you will do, I am certain, my dear brethren, my dear seminarians, because that is what all the faithful who hope in Ecône expect from you. That is what the priest is— the holy priest is a priest who is charitable above all, who has his heart wide open to all those who come to consult him, to all those who seek consolation from him, and courage and firmness of faith. You then will be such priests as these, filled with this charity of Our Lord, and you will ask this particularly of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.
We cannot think of the Eucharist without thinking of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, for if the Virgin Mary had not pronounced her Fiat, we would not have the Holy Eucharist either. It is because she pronounced her Fiat that today we have the joy, the happiness of possessing Our Lord Jesus Christ in our tabernacles, on our altars. Let us then ask the Most Blessed Virgin Mary to give us this charity which she knew so well, which she saw in her Son, Jesus.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.